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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Scouting Report: Khalif Wyatt

After getting upset by 12th seeded South Florida in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Khalif Wyatt was poised to takeover the team in his senior season. Wyatt scored 19 points in that game while the rest of the team struggled - including the two other top scoring guards - Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore who combined to score a measley 6 points. With Moore and Fernandez departing, Wyatt was in line to become the senior leader and go-to-guy his senior year.

Unfortunately, things got off to a rough patch right away. This past summer, Wyatt was arrested in for soliciting a prostitute during his 21st birthday weekend in Vegas. Wyatt cooperated with authorities and ended up being cleared to play to start the 2012-13 season. Prior to that, Wyatt had missed a game at the beginning of his junior year for a "minor internal matter". 

Despite those red flags, Wyatt has displayed good leadership and character on the court and seems to be a good guy who just loves the game of basketball. Wyatt never allows himself to get to excited or disappointed on the basketball court, displaying the same demeanor even after hitting clutch shots or converting a 4 point play. NBA teams will certainly look into his arrest and prior suspension and its not a good thing for a fringe pro prospect to have on his resume, but those occurrences seem to just be lapses in judgement.

On the court, Wyatt is a complete gamer who has came up big when his team has needed him the most. Wyatt road the bench for his freshman year and the non-conference portion of his sophomore season, but earned playing time during conference play and ended up being a key component on a team that lost to San Diego State in 2OT for the right to go to the Sweet Sixteen. 

But that was only the beginning for Wyatt, who dropped 20+ points againt the likes of Duke, Texas, and Maryland - each time while converting over 50% of his field goals. His introduction to the national stage, however, came this year with a 33 point performance against #3 Syracuse en route to a huge upset victory. Wyatt followed that up by tossing in 26 against Kansas, 24 against St. Louis, 22 vs Butler, and a 35 point game against Duquesne where he attempted to carry the team on his back by himself - before losing by 1 point in OT. Then today, Wyatt notched 30 points in OT against a ranked VCU team, a win that could help secure their spot in this year's NCAA Tournament. Wyatt's season has put him in the immediate conversation for A-10 player of the year.

The best way to describe Wyatt's style of play is "old school". He has an old man's game that reminds you of the saavy player at your local rec center. Wyatt stands at 6'4 with a strong frame, but lacks ideal length and athleticism. To put it nicely - Wyatt isn't the fastest player around. And his body, covered by a baggy t-shirt, isn't the typical chiseled frame you are used to seeing.

He is strong, though. He shot 62% at the rim this year according to which isn't great for an NBA talent, but for a guy who attacks the basket regularly with Wyatt's type of athleticism, it is impressive. The way Wyatt does it is by outsmarting opponents. There is a lot of junk in his game that he uses to throw off defenders. He's a master of drawing fouls inside and has the ability to adjust in the air and change his shot. Wyatt can barely dunk, but finishes some of the toughest shots in the lane you will see. He deals with contact in the lane at an exceptional level and can finish with either hand. And when he gets to the line, he usually converts - Wyatt shot over 82% from the line during his 4 years.

Wyatt's jumper extends well beyond the college 3-pt line as well. He can hit from anywhere on the court. While Wyatt doesn't have a devasting crossover to get open, he tends to coax defenders to sleep with his dribble and fades back slightly to get shots off. Wyatt's range extends beyond the NBA line even and his patented leg kick has sent him to the line after getting fouled multiple times to convert a 4-pt play. Wyatt isn't only great at drawing fouls inside the arc - he is truly a master of getting to the line all over the court.

In terms of passing, Wyatt is a combo guard through and through. He is a good passer and is unselfish, but he looks mainly for his own shot. You don't see Wyatt drive and dish a lot - for one, he isn't the type of guy to break down defenses and have them collapse on him. If they do, Wyatt sees this as a prime opportunity to hunt for contact and get himself to the line. So if Wyatt, is in the lane, he rarely is looking to kick it out to an open defender. That isn't to say he is selfish, that is just him playing to his strengths. Wyatt does do a good job of anticipating teammates getting open when he has the ball outside the arc. He delivers bullet passes with great timing to set up guys for easy looks at the basket. His height helps him see over defenders and he sees the court like a chess board. He can direct his teammates into good positions and see plays before they happen. 

The biggest concern with his game, and ultimately the reason why its unlikely he makes the NBA, is his defense. Wyatt is already behind the curve based on his physicall attributes and ability. He lacks the quickness to defend point guards - and even most SGs on the perimeter - and his length isn't good enough to contest jumpers of most wing players. Furthermore, Wyatt has never shown great intensity on the defensive end. His focus wanes and he can wander while looking for an opportunity to create a fastbreak. One thing Wyatt does well is get steals. Wyatt has very strong and quick hands and can strip guys going up for shots or  steal the ball from a ball handler. Wyatt has also never been a good rebounder.

Wyatt is unlikely to get drafted or ever become a known name by NBA fans, but his career should continue to blossom overseas or in the D-League. He is the kind of player who loves the game and will figure out how to put the ball in the basket against any competition. His games against teams like Syracuse prove that he can finish among great athletes and play with the best. He isn't a good enough shot creator, athlete, or defender for the NBA but will be a valuable player and make plenty of money elsewhere.

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